Manoj Kumar Borthakur
SIVASAGAR, March 2: The historic township of Sivasagar, the erstwhile capital of the Ahom dynasty for over four centuries, always occupies a significant place in political affairs of the State.
Two Chief Ministers, namely Bimala Prasad Chaliha and Hiteswar Saikia of Nazira, besides scores of other ministers, began their political careers from this district. With over 91 per cent literacy, it is certain that the voters in the district will not go by mere promises or big rallies, but by the qualities of the candidate.
While developmental works done in the constituency by the BJP-led government in the last five years may influence the voters in a big way, it is equally likely that the CAA and other related issues may work in the opposite direction.
With the elections round the corner, political bigwigs of different parties are making frequent visits to Sivasagar. Both the BJP and the Congress appear to have kept Sivasagar high on their agenda following the newly-formed regional party Assam Jatiya Parishad’s (AJP) first two-day convention held in the Boarding Field here on December 16 last.
Sivasagar LAC, which had long been represented by INC and CPI for the entire 12 terms, will be a seat of keen contest this time with the ruling BJP’s frenetic effort to wrest the seat for the first time. BJP’s Surovi Rajkumari lost the seat by a narrow margin of 542 votes in the last elections. INC candidate and former Speaker Pronob Kumar Gogoi, who represented the constituency since 2001, got 48,584 votes in the 2016 polls, while the BJP candidate got 48,042 votes. Five-time MLA from the constituency Promode Gogoi was a CPI politburo member and a minister in the AGP-led ministry.
Reports of the undertrial KMSS leader and Raijor Dal supremo Akhil Gogoi contesting elections from behind the bars from Sivasagar LAC and AJP lending support to him in the constituency has doubly increased the importance of the prestigious seat, besides making all other parties a little jittery, given the formidable support Gogoi enjoys among the rural people and unemployed youths.
But, the BJP leadership is confident that there would not be any threat to their prospects in the constituency even if the grand alliance of all Opposition parties fields only one candidate.
Speaking to this correspondent, senior Congress leader Rakibul Hussain, during a recent visit to the town, said that the party will not leave the seat to any other party considering its big support base in the entire constituency. He emphatically denied that the Congress will support Akhil Gogoi if he contests from Sivasagar.
Some grassroot-level Congress workers, requesting anonymity, told this correspondent that they have been working hard in the field for the party and if the party offers the seat to Raijor Dal or Akhil Gogoi, then they will certainly raise their voice against such a decision at the appropriate level. Raijor Dal workers led by Vasco De Saikia and Kabindra Chetia have been launching house to house campaign in Betbari and other villages to garner support for Akhil Gogoi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded the poll bugle for the BJP at the historic Zerenga Pathar near Joysagar on January 23 in front of a massive crowd. The meeting activated the grassroot workers of the saffron brigade in over 50 LACs in Upper Assam from Golaghat to Sadiya, and, at the same time, alerted the BJP rivals to hasten their poll permutations. The Congress brought in its scion Rahul Gandhi on February 14, and he made a big impact on the Congress workers and supporters, thousands of whom gathered in the Boarding Field to listen to their leader. Rahul tried his best to woo the tea tribe voters by criticising the BJP’s cash incentives.
Similarly, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma on January 28 addressed a massive gathering at the Boarding Field to launch the revised SWAYEM scheme for two lakh youths of the State, of which 9,324 are from Sivasagar district. Again, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal came to Sivasagar on January 29 and addressed a sizeable gathering on the historic Talatal Ghar premises in sync with the 72nd VDP Raising Day at Joysagar, besides emphasising the BJP’s efforts for rural development.
At the AJP convention here on December 16, attended by over 12,000 supporters, former AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi was appointed as its first president, Purbanchaliya Lok Parishad founder Pabindra Deka as executive president and former minister and AGP leader from Sadiya Jagadish Bhunya as general secretary of the regional party.
The AJP, with a group of prominent academicians, retired bureaucrats and technocrats like Dr Krishna Gopal Bhattacharjya and Basanta Deka as its advisers, and founded a year ago by AASU and AJYCP, declared that its motto will be ‘Assam First, Always and Ever.’ It also announced that it would make an all-out effort to cobble up a regional entity by burying differences with other regional parties.